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Five with the Founder: Mira Kulkarni

Published 11 / 07 / 2021

Welcome to our fourth ‘Five with the Founder’, our business insights series featuring founders we work with and admire.

  1. What inspired you to create Forest Essentials? 

Back in 2000, there was no market for freshly prepared recipes with pure ingredients using Ayurvedic guidelines; just mass-produced products, which were too strongly scented and though effective, not very pleasant to use. I realised that substandard ingredients and adulterated oils were used to keep the prices low. 

 I believed that people would pay for the purest ingredients and highest quality products if they were available, which was actually the basis of Ayurveda. For many years, I worked with Vaids and modern Biochemists to curate a wide range of products, using fresh herbs, hand pressed oils, medicinal roots, precious flowers and their infusions, prepared according to ancient formulations with exacting standards. The products sold, and became best sellers; contrary to popular perception. This was a revolutionary time for the Indian Beauty Industry as it created a new segment known as Luxury Ayurveda, which had never been explored earlier. 

  1. What skills and learnings have been key to creating FE business? 

It has been an incredible journey with hands-on learning, something that neither my education nor experience until then had taught me. My son, Samrath and I discovered that we both brought different yet complementary outlooks to the table in terms of business and strategy. I have always been instinctive and made firm decisions on quality and brand equity, which is what really drove the business in the earlier days. He excels at long-term prospects and instilling processes that build a sustainable business for the future. Despite our differences in working styles, which have turned out to be a good balance, I was very clear in our vision and that was to create a high-quality luxury Ayurvedic global brand, which represented the best of India. 

  1. How do you manage to prioritise the environmental and social responsibility side to FE? 

While sustainability and the ‘Clean and Green Beauty’ movement have gained momentum in recent times, these philosophies have been inherent in the DNA of the Brand since its inception, almost 20 years ago. With a growing awareness of environmental concerns paired with new global standards, sustainability is no longer a philanthropic quest. It is been at the core of everything we do – from the sourcing of natural ingredients from responsible farmers, to the handmade techniques and small batch making manufacturing processes. 

  1. Where do you see FE in 5 or 10 years time? 

Watching Forest Essentials – a brand that culminated from a small batch of handmade soaps, establishing its presence in one of the most prestigious markets in the world is truly a surreal experience. Forest Essentials is a brand deeply entrenched in the traditions of Ayurveda, which we believe, is sure to stand out and shine in the global beauty industry. Whilst Ayurveda is known by most in India, it is a concept that is yet to be discovered by those around the globe and our global expansion will open up that pathway. 

My personal vision is to see Ayurveda move from an alternative to a mainstream science. It should not only be based on just texts and folklore but also be given a modern context with global standards and policies. 

  1. What is the best way you manage work/life balance? 

I manage it quite well actually. I love my work so it does not seem to be tedious. Whenever there is some stress, I try out new recipes in the kitchen, garden or spend time with my grandchildren, which is always a stressbuster!  

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